Ketamine Treatment - The Story of a Phenomenon
At Curated Mental Health, we rely on interventional treatments like ketamine treatment and transcranial magnetic stimulation. We love the results. These treatments can be highly effective, without significant side effects, can help you get better without daily medicines or side effects, avoid hospitalizations, and help you achieve remission when you never got better in the past. After so much suffering, to finally get better can be exhilarating.
In 1970, ketamine was FDA approved for anesthesia. Then, a couple years be- fore the 21st century began, ketamine was tested for anorexia. This was the be- ginning of testing ketamine to learn what else it could do. Off-label use of a medicine is using it to treat complaints outside of the limits of its FDA approval. It was early, and so little was known. Therefore, the results of those tests were unremarkable.
But soon after, one researcher after another began trying ketamine for depression, substance use disorder, bipolar disorder -fear of harm (in children) ...and more.
The first trial of ketamine for depression was conducted with 7 inmates in a state penitentiary who were depressed. When given the opportunity to participate in a study for treating depression, they eagerly volunteered. Four of the seven felt relief from their depression symptoms after a single dose of IV ketamine. That relief lasted about a week.
Fast forward 20 years, and we’ve learned so much about what ketamine can do, and that by stacking several infusions close together, the antidepressant benefits last much longer.
We see very good, if not excellent, outcomes with ketamine treatment. Some people need infusions every couple months, other don’t need it more than 3 times a year. And still others remain in remission for years.
The quality of remission you can experience with ketamine treatment is usually excellent. Ketamine isn’t known for reducing your depression symptoms by 30 or 40% like some antidepressants. When it works, which is in most cases, you can achieve full remission.
We need to make the point here, though, that ketamine isn’t effective for everyone. There are some people who don’t benefit from this treatment. Studies need to continue to learn why.
How your treatment goes for you has much to do with your individual brain, your own experiences, and how well you can build a solid foundation for remission in your life. By focusing on reducing stressors in your life, and putting into practice elements that help you enjoy life, it will help you achieve longer remissions.
One woman’s experience:
An example of this is the story of a young woman who suffered from an underly- ing metabolic illness. She was admitted to the hospital frequently for intensive care to stabilize her health. The stress of these visits were the most severe of her life. And the stress tended to make her remission after ketamine infusions dis- appear. She felt like she was right back where she had been before ketamine. This happened 3 times. Finally, the hospitalizations and interventions improved her condition dramatically. She received another infusion and experienced re- mission without returning to her pre-ketamine state. Her health improved and she wasn’t admitted to that hospital again for 8 months. During that time ketamine’s work in her brain systems became established. And she remained in re- mission for years, in spite of a few more hospital visits.
She had very little control over the improvement in her health, other than doing all the things she’d always done for her health. She just finally began to get better.
This illustrates how ketamine treatment can take hold more thoroughly if stressors can be reduced for a few months after the infusions.
We know this isn’t always possible. In fact, it’s often impossible. And in such cases it becomes necessary to receive more frequent booster infusions.
How Does Ketamine Work?
In the interest of avoiding a biochemistry course, let’s talk in simple terms. Ket- amine triggers mRNA to access DNA so that the DNA can pull the lever to pour brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor (BDNF) over the synapses, so they can proliferate, multiply, and populate the synapses with scores more dendrites for more connections. With a dense population of circuits, you have more bandwidth for communication in the brain. So you brain jumps from dial up speed, to fiber op- tic speed in a few hours or a few days.
And there’s more. Running parallel to these activities, ketamine pulls the G pro- teins off the lipid rafts in the cell membrane so they can do their job. The G pro- teins help the neurotransmitters move signals along more efficiently. They help to speed things along. Now, traditional antidepressants also pull the G proteins off the lipid rafts, but very slowly. In a few weeks. Ketamine does the same task in hours. So this is one reason ketamine treatment brings relief so rapidly.
The result of all these actions taking place in the brain is a brighter outlook, in- creased motivation and initiative, improved productivity, patience and stamina to build strong relationships, freedom, and hope.
What Can Ketamine Treat?
Ketamine treatment is extraordinarily effective with treatment-resistant de- pression (TRD), bipolar depression, post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD), and erasing suicidal thoughts. It’s also thrilling to see what it can do in some- one who wants to be free from alcohol use disorder and substance use dis- order. These outcomes are especially dramatic when combined with certain therapies. Social anxiety is another severe condition that succumbs to ketamine treatment, giving you the freedom to pursue relationships, apply for jobs, excel in your career, and build leadership skills. Obsessive Compulsive disorder is also exhibiting a promising response to ketamine treatment.